They have lived in Bree some several hundred years. They have lived with Men, within city walls and buildings that often do not keep out the chill night air. There is not enough land to till; sometimes it does not seem as if there is enough space to breathe.
It is Blanco who first suggests they leave. It is late winter, almost spring, and he and his brother Marcho are adding wood to a smoky fire. Soot stains his hands and there’s an ache in his body and he turns to Marcho and says, “There must be somewhere else.”
Marcho has always had the golden tongue. He talked his way out of trouble when they were younger and talks his way into kisses now that he’s older. It’s he that speaks to Argeleb II, King of Arthedain. It’s he that speaks to the others after Argeleb agrees to grant them land as long as they acknowledge his lordship and keep the roads and bridges in repair.
Blanco and he argue; Blanco wants freedom and space and somewhere that he owes nothing to anyone but himself. He wants to till the earth and smell the sweet earthy scent of plants growing. Marcho says they have no choice, and besides, it is a good deal, and besides, the others will never agree to go farther than this. They have come too far already, the weight of their ancestors journey still rides heavy on their shoulder blades. They are not a traveling folk.
“This,” Marcho says, grand and intimate and convincing as always, “This will be the last time we ever move. Our children, and their children, and a thousand years from now our descendants will live in this place. We aren’t moving to another land, we’re making a sanctuary for our kind. A place we can be apart from the world.”
Some listen to Marcho and his golden tongue. Some, though, look to Blanco, and the weary set of his shoulders, and the hope in his eyes when he says, “Come. Let’s go home.”
They take a fortnight, and then another, making up their minds, but when Blanco and Marcho leave, a trail of hobbits follow. The Men watch their passing, hats pulled low over their eyes to block the morning sun. They stop for lunch, for dinner. They travel slowly, and the old complain and the young complain and Marcho cannot reassure them all, but there is a light that burns in Blanco as they draw closer, and they do not turn back.
They cross the River Baranduin, heavy packs on their shoulders, ponies carrying their burdens.
When they reach the rolling hills, a quiet descends upon them. The grass is green, the land well-tilled from those that had lived in this place before. The sun is warm on their skin, and there is hope in the trees that grow strong and healthy, in the breeze that catches them from the west.
It is Blanco that rouses them, that steps forward into this land, his fingers itching to curl into the dirt, to build a home out of earth and wood, hill and tree.
It is Blanco that steps forward, and the others follow.